SALT LAKE CITY — Too often these days, the sports world is dominated by the ugly news — Aaron Hernandez being accused of murder, 29 NFL players being arrested since the end of last season, top Major League Baseball players being suspended for use of banned substances, and on and on.
So let’s focus on a few stories from earlier this year, just to remind us that there are good things happening in the sports world.
— Two weeks ago Hunter Mahan was leading the Canadian Open after two rounds with a 13-under-par total. He had played well the previous week in the British Open, where he was in the final group before finishing ninth, and a month earlier tied for fourth at the U.S. Open. Now he had a chance to win the $1 million first prize at the Canadian Open.
His wife Kandi was due in three weeks, but she went into labor shortly after he completed his Friday round. Mahan had the choice of pursuing prize money or going to be with his wife. He immediately left the tournament to meet his wife in Dallas, where the couple welcomed a baby girl Sunday.
Would most other athletes have done the same thing? Probably. Was it easier for Mahan because he had already banked $2.3 million on the year? Maybe.
But the fact is, Mahan made the choice to be with his wife to witness the birth of their first child and should be applauded
— A month before that, Phil Mickelson put his family first when he left his practice round at the U.S. Open, flew back to California to see his daughter graduate from middle school, then flew back during the night, arriving just in time for his first-round tee time.
Mickelson didn’t quite win, finishing second overall, and who knows if some extra sleep earlier in the week might have made a difference. But even though he didn’t win, Mickelson did win a few weeks later at the British Open and his daughter, as well as his other two children and wife, were there to greet him when he walked off as the winner.
Perhaps that was Mickelson’s payback for his decision a month earlier to be with his family at a special time.
— Here’s a great story I missed from earlier this season:
Last year, the parents of Teddy Kremer, a 30-year-old with Down syndrome, won a silent auction to be a Cincinnati Reds batboy for a day (with others at the auction letting them win with the minimum bid). Kremer did such a good job, the players asked him to come back again this season.
Prior to a game in April against Miami, Kremer told everyone he wanted three things to happen. He wanted the pitching staff to record 11 strikeouts — a local pizza chain hands out free pizzas for 11 strikeouts and Kremer loves pizza — he wanted the Reds to score 11 runs, and he wanted his favorite player Todd Frazier to hit a home run.
As Frazier prepared for his at-bat in the sixth inning, Kremer told him. "Come on, hit me a home run. I love you." Frazier replied, "I love you too. I'll hit you one."
This kind of stuff only happens in the movies, but Frazier kept his promise, smacking a line drive over the fence in center, much to the delight of Kremer, who was so excited he forgot to pick up the bat. The picture of the two meeting at home plate is priceless.
Oh, and as for those other requests by Kremer, Frazier’s home run gave the Reds an 11-1 lead and in the seventh inning, the Reds struck out their 11th batter.
— I’m not a Cincinnati fan, if you’re wondering about another story concerning the Reds, but I am a fan of sportswriters, which is why I like this story.
Hal McCoy covered the Reds for the Dayton Daily News for 30 years. However in 2003, his eyesight rapidly deteriorated to the point he thought he needed to retire.
One day he was stumbling through the Reds clubhouse when Aaron Boone asked what the matter was. McCoy said he had to quit because his eyes hardly worked any more.
Boone convinced him not to quit and soon McCoy had encouragement from dozens of others not to quit. So he hired a military vet in his 70s named Ray Snedegar to be his personal driver and assistant in the press box after getting 400 applications. Snedegar helps “see” what’s on the field and McCoy still writes his columns and stories a decade later.
Despite losing his eyesight, McCoy has kept his sense of humor, as shown in a story Rick Reilly shared in a recent column.
Once when McCoy was telling a story, he suddenly heard a voice right next to him and asked how long the person had been there. When told 10 minutes, McCoy said he didn’t know that because his peripheral vision is “zero.”
Then McCoy said, “Hey it’s not all bad. I’m now perfectly qualified to be an umpire.’’